DE SILVA a leg spinning all-round legend | Daily News

DE SILVA a leg spinning all-round legend

D. S. De Silva perfected the art of leg spin and deservedly he is a legend of class. In cricket’s folk lore he has a rightful place. Of all the arts of bowling, the most difficult is leg spin bowling. To be efficient and successful in this style of bowling one must master the entire repertoire associated with this art.

Starting with the leg spin, one must master and be able to bowl the googly which is bowled with a leg spinning action with the back of the hand towards the batsman, but when pitched turns into an off break and baffles the batsman. The top spinner is the one that skids and goes straight. There are other variations in this style of bowling too.

Not very many bowlers would want to take to leg spin bowling because it requires hours of bowling at the nets. One must toil hard and shed a lot of sweat to finally master the art and once mastered could cause mayhem in opposing batsmen.

Top class leg spinners

In the pre Test era the country hard top class bowlers of this type – Gamini Goonesena and Ivers Gunesekera. Then in the school circuit in the late 1950s there was Michael Tissera, Lareef Idroos (S. Thomas’), Vere De Silva (St.Sebastian’s), Raja de Silva (St. Joseph’s), SarathVithanage (Royal) and the writer (St. Benedict’s).

Joining this illustrious company and after the country gained Test status was DANDENIYAGE SOMACHANDRA DE SILVA, who learnt his trade at Mahinda College, Galle before finishing up at Prince of Wales College, Moratuwa from where he graduated to playing top league club cricket at Nomads, finishing up as the best leg spin/googly bowler in the early pre Test era and post Test era.

De SILVA did not have a long run in the Test arena because age caught up with him and he had to move on. But during the short period that he was in the international scene he performed his art of bowling that had many an opposing international batsman speaking in awe about his prowess.

His best moment

He probably enjoyed his best moment when Sri Lanka beat a mighty Indian side in a memorable match in the 1979 World Cup in England by 47 runs. Although his figures were not mind boggling the three wickets he took for 29 was enough to send India crashing to 191 all out. He hand the prized wickets of Brijesh Patel, DilipVengskar and Mohinder Amaranath. Sri Lanka batting first had made 236.

It was unfortunate that DE SILVA had to showcase his magic with the ball for the country when nearing 40. Before that in the domestic scene he showed his all-round class scoring heavily as a right hand batsman and spinning his magic to baffle all batsmen.

In his trade he believed in flight, good variation and mixed his variety of deliveries to scuttle out batsmen. The selectors of that time took notice of this great all-rounder. When a strong Marley Bourne Cricket Club team toured here in 1973 when Ceylon had changed its name to Sri Lanka, DE SILVA ran rings round the MCC batsmen and he was rewarded with the wickets of Mike Denness, Tony Greig and Roger Tolchard.

Praise from Windies

He nearly bowled the country to victory against a strong West Indies team that included Viv Richards, Roy Fredricks and Clive Lloyd he had match bag of five for 150 but had the West Indians talking highly of his bowling prowess.

DE SILVA’S world class spin bowling was done long before the country attained Test status. Playing for the country whenever foreign teams played here, he showed his spinning ability and when an Indian team played here in 1975 he spun out nine men in a match bag.

Then a few months later against a full strength Pakistan team he helped the country to a memorable triumph taking eight wickets including the scalps of Zaheer Abbas, Javed Miandad, Wasim Raja, Imran Khan, Haroon Rashid, Intikhab Alam and Sarfraz Nawaz. The Pakistani batsmen who are masters of playing spin were simply bamboozled by the variety of spin imparted by DE SILVA.

Past his prime

Finally in1982 1CC granted the country Test status on Sri Lanka and by that time DE SILVA had past his prime, yet not lost the control of his repertoire of spin. He was a few months short of 40 when Sri Lanka played their first official Test against Keith Fletcher’s England team at the P.Sara Stadium, before fronting up to the Englishmen. He had a successful run with Shropshire in the minor county championship in England.

DE SILVA’S first Test wicket came in that Test when he had David Gower mistiming and then gobbled up the wickets of Paul Allot and Derek Underwood and he had figures of 27.5-11-54-3 which was memorable. But sadly Sri Lanka lost the Test.

Then when Sri Lanka made its first full Test tour to Pakistan in 1982 he showed his excellence. In the first Test he took four wickets and in the Second had three. In the following Test in Faisalabad he became the first Sri Lankan bowler to take five wickets, ending with a match bag of nine wickets,a truly remarkable performance.

Opportunity of captaining

When Sri Lanka toured New Zealand DE SILVA had the opportunity of captaining when DuleepMendis was injured and batting at number six made a half century. However he scored his career best knock of 61 in the next Test. With age catching up he starred in the 1983 World Cup Sri Lanka victory by baffling the Kiwi batsmen with figures of 12-6-11-2 which was respectable.

DE SILVA finally hung up his boots after the 1985 Benson and Hedges World Championship game in Australia. In all DE SILVA played in 12 Tests scoring 406 runs with 61 as his highest score and bagged 37 wickets with five for 59 being his best.

He played 41 ODIS making 371 runs with 37 not out as his highest and with the ball he had 32 wickets with three for 29 as his best.

When DE SILVA after a brief stint with school cricket where he brushed up their game was appointed Chairman of the Interim Committee of Sri Lanka Cricket and it was a popular choice what with his immense cricketing background. He took over this onerous slot with Sri Lanka having to host the 2011 Twenty20 World Cup.

Following Dissanayake’s example

Following the example set by former President of Sri Lanka Cricket the irreplaceable Gamini Dissanayake he concentrated on his job as an administrator and let the other committees do their jobs. This was an admirable strategy and the end result was that Sri Lanka led by Mahela Jayewardene entered the 2011 T20 final but was unlucky to lose the final to the West Indies at the R. Premadasa Stadium.

With the T20 World Cup looming it fell to him to redo and build stadiums to host this prestigious tournament. He worked tirelessly and egged the workers on to turn jungle land in Hambantota into the imposing Sooriyawewa Stadium.

It was a cricketing miracle that he performed. Then he redid the R. Premadasa Stadium and also saw to the birth of the Pallekelle Stadium.

ICC officials who visited the country to see how the work was progressing spoke in glowing terms and praised De SILVA for a job well done. I can vouch for the hard work he put in because he was very close to me, having played against each other and being bowlers of the same type.

Since retiring from the game, Sri Lanka has yet to find a leg spinning all-rounder of DE SILVA’S class. He certainly is a LEGEND.


There is 1 Comment

D S de Silva was a reasonable allrounder, but never a legend.


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